After just nine weeks on newsstands, The New Day has closed. What went wrong for this ambitious project and why has it not been given a better chance?
On March 2 I wrote this article on the launch of The New Day, a print-only newspaper allowing readers to dip in and out of its non-bias, non-gendered news. Little did I – or anyone – know that it would last just nine weeks. So what does this mean for print journalism?
It means that the commercial climate is still tough. Trinity Mirror threw £5 million at the launch and set a target of selling 200,000 copies a day, but The New Day fell far short. In reality, circulation stood at not much over 30,000 and this worried Trinity Mirror and its shareholders. As the news of the paper’s closure broke, Trinity Mirror’s share price rose by 7%; a collective sigh of relief.
So what went wrong?
The cover price was fairly high – it was free on launch day, then rose to 25p in the first two weeks and finally cost 50p, a comparatively high price for a slim newspaper that promised an overview of the news in 30 minutes.
It was also rather optimistically targeting a lost market – readers who had long given up on newspapers and instead satisfied their need for news online. It was always going to be a long shot to pull the readers back with a daily newspaper with a cover price, and it seems they failed.
The speed of the failure is quite surprising. Clearly The New Day was a long way off its readership and causing Trinity Mirror to get antsy, but surely giving it a little more time would have been helpful? The New Day chose not to have a website – again not a good decision – and instead relied on social media, but earlier this week they also launched a subscription version on an app – was this a last ditch attempt to reverse the trend or part of the plan all along?
The hammer blow came swiftly and emphatically from above – and media commentator Paul Connew points out why the time was now in his article on The Drum. He points out that on the same day the announcement was made Trinity Mirror were set to face tough questions on performance at the AGM. A slumped share price, declining print ad revenues and phone-hacking civil lawsuits are enough to face, without having to justify the continuation of a bold but failing newspaper, launched into a declining market.
You can’t help but feel for the team behind The New Day
The articles were insightful, well-written and thought-provoking, the design was strong, but it just couldn’t take hold in this difficult market. It didn’t have the young, hip readership of the now-defunct ‘i’ and it didn’t have the history and backing of the big names. The almost all-female team behind it provided a fresh approach, but it occasionally seemed to verge towards women’s magazine rather than a newspaper to be trusted. The social media team should also be commended – they gathered a good facebook following and their twitter feed was hilarious, full of witty comebacks, insights and what could possibly be described as ‘banter’.
It seems that the newspaper market is just too tough to crack and as the big names continue to hang on by their fingernails this looks like a lesson learned and one that I doubt anyone will be repeating any time soon. As optimistic as its launch was, The New Day really has just ended up emphasising the changing face of content – people want interactive, cheap and digital, not paper. The changing media landscape already reflects this and it seems that it is not worth trying to get off the bandwagon. Instead, publishing needs to get ahead of the bandwagon – those that take the reins of the lead horse will surely stay the course.